The Prayer God Never Hears

St. Teresa of Avila wrote the following:

Let us not pray for worldly things, my sisters. It makes me laugh, and yet it makes me sad, when I hear of the things which people come here to beg us to pray to God for; we are to ask His Majesty to give them money and to provide them with income – I wish that some of these people would entreat God to enable them to trample all such things beneath their feet. Their intentions are quite good, and I do as they ask because I see that they are really devout people, though I do not myself believe that God ever hears me when I pray for such things.

What are your thoughts on this?

24 Replies to “The Prayer God Never Hears”

  1. It’s a sticky dilemma. On the one hand, Jesus assured us that God knows our needs and values us very highly, so where is the point in begging God for more income? At the same time, humans very easily adapt to their income level (in thinking our new, higher income is still not enough), so we continue to pray for more, despite the fact that God has taken care of our needs. Reason number two to not pray for income.

    On the other hand, it would be nice if everyone just said the serenity prayer and accepted that they don’t have enough, but some people are truly burdened. God in the Bible answers the prayers of the oppressed, but does he ever answer the prayers for more money?

  2. There are three main things that divide people more than anything: Money, Religion, and Politics. Today’s blog covers 2 of 3.

    I believe God calls certain people to live a more frugal life, while others he calls to wealth. I don’t think either direction is right or wrong – both are needed for His kingdom. People often think the word “blessings” is directly related to wealth, happiness, and healing – His blessings can be so much greater than those things.

    1. “I believe God calls certain people to live a more frugal life, while others he calls to wealth.”

      You may be right on that, Clint. But I haven’t met too many people who embrace that call to frugality (I know I resist it).

  3. “If we, being evil, know how to give good gifts…”

    I believe God hears, but simply does not answer, prayers not in accord with his will. He chooses for us instead a higher good. The issue here is not his fidelity, but our trust.

    “How much more so your Father in heaven.”

  4. How can He not hear? He has to hear, or He cannot be who He says He is. But I imagine what He does upon hearing is good beyond our understanding and often times, our preference. And so maybe we don’t get the answers we’re seeking, maybe sometimes we only hear back silence, but it just cannot be that it’s for lack of His hearing. He is who He is, and He hears, and He is good.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head Tamara. Black silence only seems to strengthen my roots. A child asks many questions, but doesn’t always understand the answer, or sometimes they pester you until they get an answer they understand. Matt. 7:7 talks about the effective prayer meaning you keep on asking and pestering until you get an answer. What He does give us is always good, even if it’s hard to swallow. I don’t deliberately ask to be as impoverished as a person in another country, I just try to see and respond to the poverty around me. What poverty really means is: lack of.

  5. St. Teresa came from money, but abandoned a life of wealth and comfort to live as she knew God was calling her. Her order didn’t even wear shoes. She understood what was really important, and her point here is that she wishes otherswould recognize what is truly valuble. Do you go before the King of the universe and ask for a dollar, or do you ask Him for the greatest thing, the Holy Spirit?

  6. I wrestle with this a lot because my husband and I have been married for 3 years and have yet to pay all of our bills in one month. I pray for God’s provision, for financial stability, for the chance to earn more so that we can pay our bills, and we’ve never gone without food or shelter (though we’ve eaten some interesting combinations during desperate days and we lived with his parents for 10 months) but I’m wondering if I’m praying the wrong prayer. What should I be asking for instead? Why do other people have everything they need to pay their bills and then some, and we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel?

    1. If you want to know what to ask for instead, Bethany, I suggest you read Brennan Manning’s “Ruthless Trust” when you get a chance (if you haven’t already). It’s transforming the way I think about money and provision.

      Thanks for your honest comments. I always appreciate them.

  7. I look at it this way – when you are a parent children ask for things all the time they truly believe they need. We listen patiently and some times fulfilled those needs. More often then not we don’t and we then take the time to explain again about wants and needs explaining the difference. I believe God does the same with us we are after all his children.

  8. I don’t think God grants prayers for “things”. Wverything already exists here on Earth, and we can go out and help outselves.

    And it’s not a disaster for God when we die; for we’re just passing from a plane of limits to a spiritual plane without I don’t think praying for intercession in life or death situations makes sense. And praying in the locker room at halftime is downright rude.

    But praying and asking for guidance, for comfort, or strength? How could a father not offer advice, not dry tears, not cheerlead his children?

    THY will be done. You’ve given we all, Lord. Teach me how to pay back some of the debt to you, God!

  9. I think our prayers are goofy sometimes, but I think we don’t understand what the heck we’re doing. Or maybe it’s just me. We pray for what we think we need. We pray for what we want. Do we ever really pray the prayer asking for wisdom? Do we pray to listen? She’s on to something, but I can’t believe he doesn’t hear.

    1. Yes, that’s my sentiment, Jen. I have a feeling her idea of hearing was tied closely to what we think of as answering. But I can’t be sure. Still reading.

  10. Would we ever want our children to ask us for something that they truly believed they needed or that was weighing on their hearts? Granted, we do not always grant them their wish because we know that what they are asking for is not good for them. Thus, I do not think there is ever an “improper” prayer. Man cannot live on bread alone…but man does need bread. If we truly believe that God is our Provider, should we not look to Him for income? Now, if money holds too important a place in our lives, then for darn sure, God is not going to answer that prayer. To summarize, ask away, but who knows if He will answer (or I should say answer the way we want).

    1. I agree with Tim. As a provider, there’s nothing wrong with asking for wealth. Jesus even instructed us how to pray, which is asking for something, even in details. We all need bread and God knows this. It’s just He doesn’t want us to concentrate on money because there are lots of things more important than this. God wants us to be totally dependent on Him. And I believe, God, like a parent, would give His children their wish even if they don’t need it that much, if they pleases Him. For unanswered prayers, it’s another case. Even if God already knows our needs and what’s in our minds, He still wants us to ask Him for it.

  11. Really interesting quote and question, Shawn. I’m wondering, as you continue to read Teresa’s words, if maybe you might find some different kinds of words on this topic. She was an outspoken, funny woman and sometimes spoke in hyperbole to make a point. Perhaps this is one of those times. I’m with Tamara – I believe God hears always. How God answers is up to God. I surely do not know the answer to the questions about why some believers live in the midst of struggle and others in the lap of luxury – there are no easy answers to any ‘why’ based question. So maybe we need to think of other ways to couch those questions. Like: “How can I make the best use of what you’ve given me, Lord?” or “Where are you in the midst of this struggle I’m drowning in?” or “When, O Lord, will you show your face in a way that I can understand?” I just think that ‘why’ gets us nowhere – there aren’t easy answers to that whole line of thinking/questioning.

    1. Great points, Diana. I think her idea of “hearing” was perhaps closer to what we would identify as “acknowledging” or even “answering.” And that is a very difficult question, the one beginning with “Why?”

  12. Shawn, if we look in the book of Revelation and see what God does with our prayers and all of the prayers of the saints throughout history, it might change our perspective on prayer. Check it out.

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